Prof — “Liability” Review

Insert obligatory reference to the John Stamos Twitter beef here.

With that out of the way, we can get down to business: Prof’s latest album, which I definitely didn’t want to like.

Everything about Prof’s hard-partying, irreverent, insouciant persona rubs me the wrong way. Like, I’m the type who daintily sips a shot, and Prof is the type who gargles with rum. I’m the type who cooks dinner on Friday nights, he’s the type who pukes in weird places on Friday nights. I’m the type who says gosh unironically, he’s the type who includes “pussy eater” in his Insta bio. I mean, you get it. Not a music/listener match made in heaven.

But damn, he won me over. Liability is a fantastic album. Prof sounds like nobody but Prof (a rarity in Minneapolis, where it feels like every second rapper wants to sound like Atmosphere). He’s got a flow that makes you feel safe in the best possible way; you can relax and enjoy the music, knowing he’s not going to go off the rails unless he wants to.

The first half of the album is mostly party tracks and the requisite macho assertions of Prof’s hiphop prestige. As usual, he’s arrogant, crude and grating. But then again, he’s lyrically creative (who else would offer “I’m made of piss and vinegar, so I need some sugar,” as a pickup line?), vocally talented and smart enough to undercut his own hubris with tracks like King, where he raps, tongue in cheek, that “there’s peacocks in my kitchen, my shoes are made of diamonds.”

It’s hard to listen to a rapper this talented without wishing he’d jettison songs like I Had Sex in the 90s (“I miss the landing strip/I’m a fan of it”) in favor of meatier subject matter. This makes the fact that Liability drags when Prof gets serious even more frustrating.  Cloud 9, True Love and Gasoline are all too lyrically flimsy to stand up to their slower tempos. On the other hand, the wolfish desperation of Love Like Mine almost makes up for the three weaker tracks. And Permission, a jaunty track that starts like the obligatory, generic inspirational track you hear on every indie hiphop album and spirals into a defiant, incredibly vulnerable defense of Prof’s own stubborn pursuit of happiness, is one of the freshest things I’ve heard this year.

Takeaway? This is a hard album to listen to. Prof isn’t an easily likable protagonist, and  the hints of pain lying just behind his frenetic hedonism are too raw for comfort. At the same time, this is an easy album to love. Prof is undeniably gifted and clearly enjoys himself when he’s rapping. It’s exciting to watch him mature as an artist. But it would be even better to see him stop using songs like Apeshit to distract himself.

Album Rating: 7 out 10

How to Listen: Make sure you’re in a good mood and maybe drink a beer or two.

More local hiphop stuff here:
Dansvidios — “Lo Dicho 1/2” Review
Toussaint Morrison — The Interview
Toussaint Morrison — “Can’t Relive the Party”

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